Chapter 2 – Ringworm in General Survey of Literature



“It is impossible to speak too strongly on this point, as an outbreak of ringworm in a school is often due to the admission into it of an unrecognised case of the disease. As a rule, the trouble arises from a boy returning to school (after he has had an attack of ringworm on the head) with a certificate to the effect that he is cured, when in fact he is suffering from a chronic and contagious form of the complaint; or, from the entry into the school of an entirely unsuspected case; generally a boy, who has had a scurfy patch on his head for some time, but who is, in reality, suffering from chronic ringworm.

“Speaking from experience, after the examination of a very large number of children, both in private and for admission into Christ’s Hospital and other schools, I have found that in by far the majority of cases where a boy has had ringworm on the head within a year or two of my seeing him, the disease has not been really cured. As a rule, the treatment has been continued until some new hair has made its appearance on the patches, after which it has been discontinued, although many diseased stumps remained. When this stage has been reached, the case will often continue in the same chronic state-the patches remained about the same size, getting neither better nor worse-while the little patient, who may be certified as “perfectly well,” may be the constant and unsuspected cause of a succession of outbreaks of ringworm in a school.”

We therefore see that in by far the majority of cases certified as cured the disease has not been cured at all, but still exists as Chronic Squamous Ringworm. Hence it follows that the ordinary statistics of the cure of ringworm by medical and surgical practitioners are worthless. The cures are not real, the treatment has merely got rid of the worst of the ringwormy mould in its more gross and evident form. Even one year, even two years, after;the cure the sufferers continue to be contagiously ringwormy notwithstanding the fact that the patches have been scoured clean and the hairs have grown again.

Our Author further says:-

“Disseminated Ringworm.

“Especially would I call attention to a variety I call “disseminated ringworm”-one rarely diagnosed, and the most chronic and difficult to cure. The hair is found to be growing freely and firmly all over the head; there are, perhaps, no patches to be seen now, although probably they have existed at an earlier staged of the disease; the skin appears generally healthy, and perhaps almost free from scurf: but numerous isolated and generally thickened stumps, or groups of stumps, or black dots, are seen here and there, often scattered all over the scalp. This variety is almost always overlooked, and can only be detected by very careful examination.”

And again:__ “Diffuse Ringworm.

“A very chronic from,”diffuse ringworm,” is also sometimes seen, in which there are one or more large irregular patches, often extending nearly all over the scalp. The surface is very scurfy, and very many of the long hairs have grown again, but numerous stumps are to be seen in every direction. This variety is constantly overlooked, or mistaken for seborrhoea or chronic squamous eczema; but it can always be diagnosed by the stumps. Cases are even found where the entire scalp is affected. “Chronic Pustular Ringworm.

“Chronic ringworm may also occur in the form of Pustular spots, with a certain amount of redness and crusting around, and with a stump existing in the centre of each spot. This appears to be Nature’s effort to get rid of the stump, and can be successfully imitated by treatment.

“Small Spots.

“Sometimes chronic ringworm may exist, without apparent change, for months or even years, as a single spot, or in spots so small that they are not noticed, even by professional men, with numerous long hairs and only a few stumps. Often ten minutes or more has to be spent in examining a child’s head before any stumps can be detected. I have known an outbreak of ringworm in a school to be caused by a chronic spot not larger than a split pea, and where only a few stumps could be found on close examination with a lens.”

We see, then, that not only are most of the cases certified by eminent medical men as cured, not really cured, but that “Disseminated Ringworm,” “Diffuse Ringworm,” and “Small-Spot Ringworm” are “rarely diagnosed,” “constantly overlooked,” and “not noticed even by professional men.”

It must, therefore, be manifest that the germs of ringworm must be about in almost every gathering of children, at every party, in every school, in almost every church and chapel in the world; and when we further remember that Dr. Tilbury Fox found the conidia of trichophyton in abundance in the dust deposited from the air of a ward in which ringworm cases were located, it must be pretty clear that ringworm may be communicated through the air in a multitude of different places, and in almost all schools and other places where children do congregate, and that is practically everywhere. Alder Smith further affirms (p.5) that it may be caught from the heads or infected articles belonging to boys or girls, with chronic, and often unknown and untreated, varieties of the disease, which are every day mistaken for chronic scruf or dry eczema.

Therefore we may say that the germs of ringworm are practically everywhere. This is quite what we should expect from our knowledge of the moulds generally: given the right conditions for mouldiness and moulds, and there they are. Also, given the right soil and conditions for ringworm__and there it is.

The other known facts of the disease ringworm leads us to the same conclusion as just stated probable universal presence of the germs of ringworm,.

Keeping still to our Author, we read (p.44):__”I am positive that a ringworm on the head, the size of a sixpence, can develop in forty-eight hours, and increase to the size of a florin in another twenty-four hours, because I have actually seen ringworm grow at this rate. But this is certainly not the usual rate of progress. Ringworm generally develops much more slowly than this; yet there is no doubt that a moderate sized patch may appear in a few days.

“It cannot, on the other hand, be said how long it has not existed; for the place may spread very slowly, and remain almost in the same state for weeks, or even months.

“Cases like these (chronic ringworm) must have existed some time; probably for many months, or possibly for years.

“I remember one inveterate case that resisted all treatment for nine years, and though the patient was eighteen when I last saw him, he still had disseminated ringworm; and another disseminated case (lately under my care) had been treated by many medical men for a period of eight years without being cured.

“It is impossible to say how long even a small spot of chronic ringworm may not have existed, as it may have remained in a latent state for month, or even years.

“The rate of growth and rapidity of reproduction are very different in individual cases. If the fungus spreads slowly, it indicates only a slightly favourable soil, and it can then-in its early stage-often be quickly eradicated; but if it grows rapidly, it is due to the general nutritive condition furnishing a favourable nidus: it is then most difficult, and sometimes impossible to arrest its course; the increase in the rate of growth of the fungus being greater than can be counterbalanced by rubbing in parasiticides.

“Dr. T. Fox says: ‘Ringworm is obstinate in proportion as this or that patient offers a favourable soil in his textures for the growth of the fungus or parasite.'”

I think the impartial will at once concede that Alder Smith the physician completely refutes Alder Smith the rubber-in of parasiticides, but that he should do it unbeknown to himself is distinctly curious.

Is Ringworm a Disease Due to Dirt?

No; not one of my cases of the past three or four years was due to dirt, all being members of the higher and upper middle classes, who tub and scrub, perhaps, even too much.

On this point Alder Smith says:

“It is a great mistake to think ringworm is due to dirt. Of course neglected children with dirty heads are more likely to be exposed to, and to take the disease; but it constantly occurs in children whose heads are kept perfectly clean, and where all proper care is taken. No matter what precautions are observed with regard to cleanliness, some of the other children in a school will commonly take ringworm if an untreated case is accidentally admitted into it, no matter from what class of society the pupils be obtained.” Note the some.

Our Author continues:- “Children under ten years of age seem more prone to take the disease than those who are older; and it is very rarely contracted after the age of thirteen, and hardly ever seen on the head in adults. Again, infants are not often infected.

“About puberty, ringworm is more manageable, and generally- even when it has existed for years it tends to get well spontaneously soon after this period.”

Now if the essence of the disease is the fungus, and the treatment is to be addressed to the killing of the fungi, why should the age of the individual host have anything to do with the parasite? And how is it that it gets well spontaneously after puberty?

James Compton Burnett
James Compton Burnett was born on July 10, 1840 and died April 2, 1901. Dr. Burnett attended medical school in Vienna, Austria in 1865. Alfred Hawkes converted him to homeopathy in 1872 (in Glasgow). In 1876 he took his MD degree.
Burnett was one of the first to speak about vaccination triggering illness. This was discussed in his book, Vaccinosis, published in 1884. He introduced the remedy Bacillinum. He authored twenty books, including the much loved "Fifty Reason for Being a Homeopath." He was the editor of The Homoeopathic World.